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Design Thinking

45 hours – Graphic Design – PUCPR.

This is an elective course offered to students from any of the bachelors of Catholic University of Paraná. The purpose was to provide them the opportunity to develop multidisciplinary projects based on the design thinking approach.


Syllabus: Typology of design thinking, wicked problems, co-creation, grassroots design, participatory design, design livre, multidisciplinary collaboration.

Specific skills:

  1. Create viable projects from different people’s desires and needs
  2. Collaborate with experts from many disciplines
  3. Deal with wicked problems in an ethical manner
  4. Bear the typical contradictions that rise from complexity
  5. Research user behavior
  6. Prototype experiences using low-tech tools
  7. Use the whole body in the creation of products and services
  8. Critically reflect on design methodologies

Study topics:

ThemesRelated skills
Design methodologies: creation, analysis, synthesis, space of possibilities, differences between process and method, project freedom, design by non-designers, typology of design thinking.1, 3, 8
Challenges and techniques for collaboration: sketching in groups, brainstorming, bodystorming, gamestorming, design games, conceptual models, affinity diagrams, collaborative tools in the Internet.2, 4
User research to frame innovation opportunities: activity system, contradictions, differences between needs and desires, ethnographic studies, evidence sorting, insight generation from research.5
Experience prototyping: paper prototyping, theater techniques, storyboards, ludic scenarios with puppets, video narratives, user testing.6, 7

Methodology: reading and discussing texts, collaboration exercises and prototyping in the classroom, field studies, project development.

Evaluation procedures: classroom participation, project evaluation according to quality measures and ethic principles.

Duration: 45 hours in 4 months.


Historical evolution of the design object, from construction materials to emergent performances. It presents a coherent theory of use value, cocreation, experience design and more.
Design thinking is a particular way to think about design activity. In this lecture, there types are distinguished: systematic, intuitive and expansive design thinking. In the last type, the design project stems from developing empathy by a particular type of person; Work is collaborative and involves many disciplines; models are simple and accessible by all.
Contradiction cannot be solved like a problem, but the struggle eventually produces a third force which transforms society. Contradiction-driven design is my practical approach to produce third forces which can transform society beyond the current dualisms.
The design object is the motive behind any design project. More often than not, design projects aim to support the expansion of another activity’s object, but this task is challenging. Here follows a series of tactics to expand design objects: 1) Investigate the motives behind the object; 2) Create a provocative solution 3) Import an instrument from another activity 4) Promote the confrontation of interests
5) Share the object among multiple activities 6) Make a contradiction visible.
Service design is the practice of designing networks of people, places and technologies. However, not every aspect of a service can be designed since it relies a lot on people. See how it is possible to create possibilities for organization transformation through service design.

Activity inquiry guide

To support students in using the activity system model in their historical analysis of a project situation, these questions are raised:

  • What is the activity?
  • Where does it take place?
  • Who are the people carrying it on?
  • What are they trying to transform?
  • What is the expected result from transformation?
  • What are the instruments used?
  • How do people divide work?
  • How do they control and regulate work?
  • How do they form a community?

Categories: Teaching.

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One Response

  1. The ideas shared by van Amstel may have broad use value. I teach about the design of organizations and find the ideas here quite relevant – some directly and some as metaphors.
    Mike Beyerlein
    Texas A&M University

    Mike BeyerleinDecember 17, 2016 @ 11:01 pm